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Review – A View from the Bridge – Chester Little Theatre 

ORIGINALLY programmed and cast pre-pandemic, the much anticipated production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge has finally reached the stage at Chester Little Theatre, under the sure-handed direction of Jane Barth.

Like much drama from Miller and his colleagues in that great mid 20th Century American triumvirate (think Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) A View from the Bridge features timeless themes that can always find contemporary relevance. As with much of this work, A View examines a family in freefall as the rock that holds it together – Eddie Carbone – implodes emotionally leaving all around him reeling.

Eddie is certainly a character who loves not wisely but too well, and his confused moral code and fear for his reputation lead him on a path of self-destruction. In his wake he leaves the lives of his wife, Beatrice, and their niece Catherine in tatters, having meanwhile betrayed Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolpho.

All this personal drama is, of course, set against a dockside backdrop in post-depression America, where European migrants are prepared to risk everything to find work to feed their families back home. So it is that Marco and Rodolpho arrive from Sicily to stay with their cousin in Brooklyn’s Red Hook district, finding hope and aspiration that soon turns to tragedy.

The central trio of Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine are played with great synergy by Rob Turner, Fiona Wheatcroft and Joanna Mitton. Haluk Saglam and Nuri Ucuncu are brilliantly paired as the brothers from Sicily. Saglam is a stoical, calm Marco, trying to keep the peace whilst defending his family’s honour. Ucuncu gives an expressive performance of the easy-going, flamboyant Rodolpho, all broad gestures and wide-eyed optimism, until he gets under Eddie’s skin.

This is always a play in which you can feel the difficulty that Miller had in bringing his story to the stage. The use of a narrator in the form of the lawyer Alfieri is an awkward theatrical device, but Barth succeeds in navigating the transitions from action to direct narrative as seamlessly as possible, with the help of a good lighting plot from Ollie Clark. With possibly the most convincing of a series of good New York accents among the cast, Richard Hulse is a great choice for Alfieri. Nattily besuited, he both keeps the story moving forward and offers a moral sounding board and compass for Eddie, whilst bringing clarity to the poetic passages with which he opens, ends and punctuates the piece.

The layered set, pretty much mandated in Miller’s notes, is splendidly realised on the Little Theatre’s stage by John McGinn, and a backdrop of the East River through the Carbones’ window changes subtly with the times of day, providing a further talking point for the audience during the interval. There is also good use of music throughout, including the especially atmospheric choice of Copland’s Quiet City over the epilogue.

This is a challenging piece both in terms of staging and emotional intensity, and the company have risen to it with great success, creating a tremendously satisfying evening of theatre.

This is an amateur production of A View from the Bridge presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd., running until Saturday 5th March.

Review by Nigel Smith

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